Brush Pointy as the Church of St. Henry's Spire
She gives me a folding chair,
so I can watch her paint on the wall
a map in which Chicago is nothing
but the blocks where she bought heroin.
While Coltrane blurs through a box fan,
I float in the sound of her brushwork.
She casts a giant’s shadow on her city,
marking no street names, offering only
an X like a signature for those corners
where she copped. She retakes her steps
with black and red oil, and with the music
I can hear how they must have fallen,
the brush of her becoming a surface
she sunk into. Her blur. There isn’t a window
in her horsehair houses. Her right eye
rolls back to the birth of pleasure,
as if hiding in a shell, as though a star
the city sky might hold in its pale fist.
A little foam forms on her lips, and I want
to brush it off. She is precarious though
even the little lean in her legs suggests
the calibration of an instrument. I am here
to locate the slowness of her rain, to listen to paint
dripping here and there from its cardinal
arrangement. She paints through it,
left hand defying sleep, leaning her
off-hand against the city, staining her
blue button-up. Come to, she swirls her brush
inside a mason jar, turns tap water red.
Pour this in the sink, she says,
and bring it back with clear.
The photograph of St. Henry's church serves as an illustration to accompany the poem, but the original source of inspiration is expressed in the poem.
Nick Rattner's work can be found in Columbia Poetry Review, Exchanges, Circumference, and Asymptote.
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